For the first time in NFL history, a playoff game will not be broadcast on network television. That’s because ESPN, after 27 years of doing regular-season NFL games, will air a wild-card playoff game next January.

“We’re thrilled to televise our first Wild Card playoff game and we thank the NFL for the opportunity,” said ESPN President John Skipper in a press release from the Worldwide Leader. “This game will be among the highest-rated programs of the year on cable and it is compelling content that will help us better serve football fans during the postseason.”

As a result, NBC will only televise one wild-card game but will steal a divisional playoff game from either CBS or FOX. That format is supposed to be in place through at least the 2022 season, so we’re assuming that CBS and FOX will take turns giving up one divisional game per year over the course of the new broadcast contracts.

What this really means is more “A” crews and less “B” crews for postseason games. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be able to do both of NBC’s playoff games now that they’re airing on separate weekends, while Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will call that wild-card game on ESPN.

So this means no Dan Hicks and Mike Mayock for NBC on wild-card weekend. And when CBS gets the divisional-round shaft, you won’t hear Greg Gumbel’s voice. When FOX steps aside for NBC in the divisional playoffs, it’ll be just Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, limiting opportunities for Kevin Burkhardt, Thom Brennaman and Kenny Albert.

The extra playoff games are certainly welcome news for NBC, who gets an extra week of the NFL to further entrench themselves and Sunday Night Football as the most watched primetime program in network television. And for ESPN, who can get a little closer to justifying their $1.8 billion dollar per year price tag for NFL rights.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

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